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I&B ministry revokes Zee Media’s permission for uplinking channel in Ku band

The ministry of information and broadcasting has withdrawn the permission given to Zee Media Corporation Ltd (ZMCL) for uplinking of 10 television channels available in Ku-Band (a form of satellite frequency) on GSAT-15 Satellite, that was making these accessible on DD Free Dish and giving the media company an unfair advantage over its competitors.

Ten regional news channels, namely, Zee Hindustan, Zee Rajasthan, Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal, Zee Bihar Jharkhand, Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand, Zee Salam, Zee 24 Kalak, Zee 24 Taas and Zee Odisha (now Zee Delhi NCR Haryana) were permitted to operate on C-Band, another form of satellite frequency, after permission was granted by MIB, an order from the ministry said on Friday.

To be sure, Subhash Chandra owns nearly 6% in ZMCL though some shares are indirectly owned by other family members through different companies. ZMCL also operates news and current affairs channels such as Zee New, Zee Business and WION.

“ZMCL applied (in 2019) for permission to uplink the 10 channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT -15 satellite from the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd. The justification given by the applicant was that many operators have desired to receive channels in the Ku-Band…who, in many cases, do not own or operate a C-Band receiving Dish..due to their location in crowded locales where such installations are not possible. The applicant further mentioned that Ku-band allows smaller dish antennas for its application, hence installation is cheaper and easy and it incurs lesser terrestrial interference,” the statement said.

On request of ZMCL, the ministry had granted permission for uplinking of the channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd but subsequently noticed that these channels were available on Doordarshan’s direct-to-home platform FreeDish as well. This happened because of the proximity and co-location of transponders of both DD FreeDish and Dish TV on the same GSAT 15 Satellite and non-encryption of signals by both.

“Due to availability of channels on DD FreeDish, ZMCL was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band)..besides the leverage of large subscriber base of DD. The ministry also received references from Prasar Bharati and many private broadcasters regarding this unfair advantage to ZMCL,” the ministry’s statement said. Finding that uplinking to the two bands simultaneously is in fact, restricted, I&B served a show cause notice to ZMCL. Zee Media said that the situation has arisen due to co-location of DD FreeDish and Dish TV on the same satellite and non-encryption of the signals by Prasar Bharti which is in violation of the DTH Guidelines.

“As per the Policy Guidelines for Downlinking, broadcasters should provide signals to distribution platform operators only and are not supposed to reach consumers directly. Due to the permission granted by MIB, channels of ZMCL are directly available to the consumers due to co-location. However, because of the fact that the channels of ZMCL are unencrypted and are on Ku Band, they are being received by the subscribers of DD FreeDish directly and not through any DPO. This arrangement is in violation of the policy guidelines for downlinking of a TV channel. In order to provide a level playing field to all the stakeholders in the TV channel industry, the decision for grant of permission to ZMCL for simultaneous uplinking of its 10 TV Channels in Ku Band on GSAT- 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd. has been reviewed and withdrawn with immediate effect,” the order of the ministry said.

It added that Prasar Bharti is an autonomous body setup under Prasar Bharati Act and DD FreeDish has been set up by Prasar Bharti with the approval of the Union Cabinet. The DTH Guidelines and Policy Guidelines for Upliniking and Downlinking are applicable to only those TV channels and distribution platforms for which any permission or license is granted by the I&B ministry. Since DD Free Dish is a special dispensation, approved by the Union Cabinet, these guidelines of MIB are not applicable to it.

Zee Media did not respond to queries on MIB revoking its permission to uplink the channels on Ku band. Breaking Blog

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